Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Day At The Fair

This morning I'm going to do something I rarely do. I'm going to write a purely personal blog post. If you're not interested in the goings-on in the week of a middle-aged city gal, now is the time to bail. As of this moment, I have nothing political, cultural, or scientific to pass along (although I'm very sure that won't last.) I've been too busy to get in my reading quota for the last few days. Boy, have I been busy. We've had family come to town for hiking trips and dinners out. That was the fun part of busy. The rest gets a bit more tedious. Those of you who have been following the church painting project will send some sympathy our way when you read that my husband and I spent another thrilling couple of days in the bucket of the lift, painting away for hours on end. Sunday, we started after the morning service, and painted till it was too dark to see anymore. Too dark to see happens around 8:30 this time of year in Portland. That's a long time up in the bucket. (We got almost all the trim finished, which is good, because the rented lift gets returned today.) There's been other stuff filling up our time, as well, but I think you've probably had enough Kat's schedule details by now. I know I have.

Yesterday, of course was Labor day, which is a day we traditionally labor. We often use the day off to work on some project or other, however, this year we broke with tradition, in order to fulfill another annual tradition--one of the very few traditions my husband and I have, actually. We went to the Oregon State Fair. The Oregon Fair is huge. There are displays and competitions for just about everything imaginable, except maybe space-walking and deep-sea diving. We try to go every year, although not usually on Labor day, which is the last day of the fair, and tends to be crowded. However, we ran out of time this year, and we had to mesh our schedule together with the schedule of the friends who went with us. We often go alone, but this year we invited some friends who have kids. Seeing everything with kids just adds a whole different dimension to the fun.

This year, because we were with the small fry, we eschewed some of the standard lures that Fair time usually holds for those of us who live in Meowville. We went with things that would please the kids, and this shifted our focus a bit. Some things, though, are universally pleasing. We always see the animals, of course, and this year was no different. However, since it was the last day, many of the critters had headed off to greener pastures already. They had won their ribbons and gone home. Even so, there were still a few stragglers hanging around waiting to be adored, so the kids got to pet llamas and goats, and a really big emu. Goats are so very adorable and friendly. Long-haired, short-haired, pygmy, you name it, they're cute and cuddly in a smelly, barnyard sort of way. A few of my favorite goats were still around. I don't know what they are called but they have these giant pink udders that make them look as though they are straddling a tailless pig. You just can't beat a pig-straddling goat for sheer entertainment value. There were a few giant pigs suckling truly adorable piglets, too. What city kid could want more? The children were amply amused.

The rest of the day passed with great enjoyment. We all baked under the hot sun, sweat literally rolling down our backs, while darling little dogs stood on one paw, and jumped over obstacles. A magician amazed us by re-materializing a shredded playing card and squirting the perspiring crowd with the occasional shower. The crowd was grateful, I think. The kids got to glide down a giant slide and fly in a rocket ship. The two men and small boy in our little party got to climb all over large farm equipment. They climbed over large farm equipment several times during the course of the day. No one could have been happier. Except my husband. He would have been happier if I had actually gone along with him BUYING one of those beautiful pieces of machinery. It was the only disappointment to the day. He is not going to fill up my new shop with a track hoe. It's just not going to happen. We diverted him with the other thing that is dear to every man's heart--food. We all ate terribly healthy fair food, like corn-dogs, caramel corn, and chocolate-dipped cheesecake. And Shave Ice. Every day at the fair needs Shave Ice.

The highlight of the Fair this year for me was definitely the demolition derby. First, it was indoors, and therefor cool. By this point we were all grateful for cool. That wasn't what made the demolition derby the highlight of the day, though. I had forgotten how fun they were. I remember my Dad taking us often, when I was small, to the stock car races. It was a long, loud ordeal for me, although I was happy to go, since it got us out of whatever yard-work needed doing at home. I suffered my way through the diversion, sometimes bored, but glad to be on a family outing. Sometimes, though, at the end of the day, there was the all-too-brief explosion of fun that came from ten or so cars all ramming each other into oblivion. It was glorious. Now, I never was a violent child, but there was just something so exciting about the crunch of metal and the plumes of smoke as beat-up old junkers tried to be the last car standing. Yesterday, we each picked "our car" for the heats. I chose the worst car both times. My husband, on the other hand, chose both the winners. He actually had reasons for his choices, like how sturdy the model was. I just thought mine looked cool. I think his method works better than mine.

It was funny, watching the derby as an adult was every bit as fun, but it did have its grown up, socially conscious moments, like when one of our friends leaned over and mentioned how these cars were all in good running order, and most would be perfectly satisfactory family cars in third world countries. People would be grateful to have such a treasure. Here, we take our wealth so for granted that we demolish them for ten minutes entertainment. Then we award a trophy and a prize. The prize in this case was seventy-five dollars. Seventy-five dollars to destroy a not-quite-perfectly-good, but running, car. The losers get nothing but a heap of shredded metal. How sad. The pang of conscience was short lived, however. Even with that brief flash of social consciousness to mar the moment, it was still a ball.

So we amused ourselves throughout the hot, late-summer day, and Ked and I fully plan to go back again next year. We didn't see horses strutting, pulling stagecoaches, or jumping rail fences this year. We didn't see the photography exhibits, nor the flower displays. We didn't see the giant vegetables, nor the 4H fashion show, no glass blowing, or juggling. There's so much to do when the fair rolls around again. Every year is different, and that's what brings us back, over and over. We enjoyed seeing it this year through the eyes of our friends, and especially their children. The look on a small boy's face as he's making his rocket ship soar higher into the air is, all by itself, worth the long drive, and parking in outer Mongolia, the crowds, the ridiculous prices for bad-for-you food, and the sore feet. By the end of the day, we were all footsore and content, just as such days are meant to end. The only thing missing was the giant blow-up orange octopus that no one ever knows what to do with when they get it home. Oh well, there's always next year.